Disability benefits are provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This publication focuses on the SSDI program. Disability benefits are paid to individuals who are unable to work due to a medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death. Only total disability is considered, and short-term or partial disabilities do not qualify. Family members of disabled workers may also be eligible for benefits.

There are two ways you can apply for disability benefits: online or by calling the SSA's toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment at a local Social Security office. The application process involves a disability claim interview, which typically lasts about an hour. For individuals with hearing impairments, there is a separate TTY number for assistance: 1-800-325-0778, between 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

When applying, you will need to provide information such as Social Security number, date and place of birth, contact details of healthcare professionals, medication details, medical records, employment history, and tax-related documents. You may also have to fill out other forms about your medical condition and authorize healthcare professionals to share relevant medical information.

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as the disability develops, as the application process can take several months. The SSA reviews applications to determine eligibility based on work history and current work activities. If the basic requirements are met, the application is forwarded to the Disability Determination Services office in the applicant's state for further evaluation.

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Last Reviewed: July 6, 2023